Updated: Aug 22, 2019
The tight-knit "Squad" of freshman progressive lawmakers has started to adopt a curious new talking point -- defending Israel boycotts by likening them to boycotts against Nazi Germany.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., was the latest to make this comparison, speaking on the House floor Tuesday in opposition to a bipartisan resolution against the movement known as BDS -- which calls for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel.
“The right to boycott is deeply rooted in the fabric of our country,” said Tlaib, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, before noting, “Americans boycotted Nazi Germany in response to dehumanization, imprisonment, and genocide of Jewish people.” She also made reference to boycotts against apartheid South Africa.
The anti-BDS bill passed by a vote of 398-17.
Days earlier, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., introduced a resolution of her own that subtly supported BDS without specifically mentioning Israel. That resolution also utilized the Nazi Germany comparison.
“Whereas Americans of conscience have a proud history of participating in boycotts to advocate for human rights abroad, including … boycotting Nazi Germany from March 1933 to October 1941 in response to the dehumanization of the Jewish people in the lead-up to the Holocaust,” the resolution said.
In comments to Al-Monitor, Omar said the resolution “is an opportunity for us to explain why it is we support a nonviolent movement, which is the BDS movement.”
Some Jewish lawmakers have bristled at the comparison and at the Squad's continued support for BDS.
"In twisting the knife, the text of Omar’s pro-BDS resolution goes so far as attempting to draw a moral equivalency with boycotting Nazi Germany," Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., wrote in a Fox News op-ed.
In the past, Omar has accused members of Congress of supporting Israel due to lobbyists, implying that they are being paid off. She claimed on Twitter that U.S. support for Israel was "all about the Benjamins baby." She later deleted the tweet and apologized.
Of the other Squad members, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., voted for the anti-BDS bill, but Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., joined Tlaib and Omar in opposing it.
Ocasio-Cortez justified her vote to BuzzFeed News by saying it was a matter of free speech and supporting non-violent protest.
“And my concern with being overly punitive on nonviolent forms of protest is that it forces people into other channels and I would hate to be a part of, you know, paving that kind of path,” she said. Israel has faced attacks from the Hamas-led Gaza Strip for years, most recently with rockets fired into Israel in May.
REP. LEE ZELDIN: ILHAN OMAR IS WRONG -- ANTI-ISRAEL AND ANTI-SEMITIC BDS MOVEMENT MUST BE CONDEMNED
Ocasio-Cortez has also used Holocaust comparisons amid other policy debates, including describing detention facilities at the U.S.-Mexico border as “concentration camps.”
Despite support for BDS from some on the American left, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has spoken against it in the past.
“No, we do not support the boycott of Israel,” Abbas told South African reporters in 2013, according to the Times of Israel. He did say he is in favor of boycotting Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
“But we do not ask anyone to boycott Israel itself,” he explained, saying, “we have relations with Israel, we have mutual recognition of Israel.”
Fox News’ Lukas Mikelionis contributed to this report.
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